Saturday, January 28, 2012

A day in the life....

Everyday is filled with at least 400 amazing adventures at The Little School. Though we make it a point to get together as a community throughout the day,  in some ways each class is like it's own distinct planet in the TLS milky way.  I thought it would be fun just to poke our heads into these Martian worlds. Here is what I found this week:

Ms. Rose's Yellow Duck class transformed into hibernating bears. Throughout the week, these duck-bears learned all about bears and hibernation. Bear hats donned, the kids all came with their teddy bears and cozy pj's and had a big meal to prepare for the long cold winter (aka, nap-time). 

Ms. Holly's class created a masterpiece for Art For Hospice. This non-profit group distributes works of art made by kids of all ages, and distributes them to hospice centers, VA hospitals and nursing homes across the state. Here James shows us the "tree" he painted.

 Each class is participating in the Art for Hospice project.  Ms. Val's Zany Zoo was also hard at work on the Hospice project. Their  class made a landscape scene using their hands and feet.  Here Tristen folds under the tickle of Ms. Jennifer's brush. We will display these works of genius in the halls for a few weeks before we send them on.

The Mighty Me's celebrated the Chinese New Year with a look into China. Among other things, they  learned Chinese phrases (Qiángdà de wǒ means MIGHTY ME!made paper lanterns and flags, and played with a cardboard Great Wall of China. They also created a mighty dragon puppet for the culminating New Years parade with their big friends in the Pre-K classes.  Here they are gluing the teeth into the mouth of their good-luck dragon. 

Davian and Diana's class has been investigating all things water.  The kids brain stormed and made a water web discussing the use and properties of water. They froze and melted ice cubes and delighted in the sensory results. Here Sawyer pours water though a maze of funnels and cups. 

The Busy Bodies continued their investigation of clothes. A important part of our everyday curriculum is teaching our kids how to be independent powerful kids! When age appropriate, our kids clean up their lunch dishes and put on their clothes. Along this vein, the BB's have been working on clothes of all kinds, including zipping zippers and snapping snaps. Last week they tie-dyed their own shirts to wear every Wednesday for Team Busy Body spirit. 

Samantha and Vera enjoyed the sun and playing ball with the fabulous Ms. Monica in the Wonder-fun class. In this simple game of pass, the three practiced everything from gross motor, eye-hand coordination and turn taking (not to mention taking advantage of a 60 degree January day!)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chef Nate: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

If The Little School had a rock-star, it would be Chef Nate. As his cart makes its squeaky way down the hallway, the kids often drop what they are doing and shout “Chef Nate!”. I’m not exaggerating here.   As I was leaving work last night, he was returning to school to make homemade noodles for tomorrows lasagna. I asked if he knew that they carry such delicacies as noodles at the Food Lion, and he replied “Not for our kids. They get the best!” Trained at the Culinary Institute of America, our gourmet chef came to us straight from cooking at The 5 star Fearrington House Inn. Do these kids KNOW what they have? Short answer... no, but let’s have fun and ask them what Nate does at school?

“He cooks” -- Ellie 2

“He makes food for us to eat “-- Karson 5

“He brings me a song. Just a song.... and food” Isabelle 3

Ok,  so that’s an easy one. I then asked them to tell me what the BEST thing Chef Nate makes. 99.5% answered “Bread”, with “crusty bread” serving as a slight variation.Getting nowhere, I re-think the question. “Alright, OTHER then bread what is your favorite?”

“His Mac & Cheese! It’s REALLY cheesy”-- Sammy 5
“Pizza!” --- Gib 3
“The BAAAACOOON” --- Graham 5
“Corn” --- Ellie 2
Corn? I repeat, the man comes directly from The Fearrington Inn, and “applesauce” is the best thing he makes (In Flurey’s--age 5 defense, his applesauce IS beyond amazing). Realizing that this is an overly conceptual questions for young kids, I move on to the teachers. The answers fly faster then a bowl of Nate’s tomato bisque.... “spring rolls”, “anything with aioli sauce”, “homemade granola bars”, “ barbecue chicken and cheesy grits, “parmesan pop-overs” to name just a few. Drooling yet? No doubt, we are all eating well here at TLS!

So, what is it exactly that we are doing here? If the kids just want bread and bacon, why not just do that? Alice Waters, made famous for her Edible Schoolyard program writes:
“Right there, in the middle of each school day lies time and energy already devoted to the feeding of children. We have the power to turn that daily school lunch from an afterthought into a joyous education, a way of caring for our health, our environment, and community.“

During lunch, the teachers sit and eat family style with the students.  Older children serve themselves and pass the bowl to the next child.  The teachers encourage the kids to talk about the food they are eating, and are guided through questions such as “how do you think a chick-pea grows?”, “what does this tomato soup remind you of?”  Under the guidance of our very own green-thumb, Ms. Diana, the older classes plant and tend vegetable gardens that Chef Nate uses to prepare his sumptuous meals.  
The fresh, still warm bread, the vegetable gardens, even the lunch conversations are an extension of our curriculum. Think of it as another (really yummy) classroom. In this classroom we are teaching the children about food and how it arrives on their plates. This process encourages healthy choices, the joy of eating, and understanding when your body is finished eating.  In an era of skyrocketing cases of obesity and diabetes in children, these measures are crucial for the life long health of our children.

This is an idea that has received a great deal of press these days in part due to people like Jamie Oliver and Michelle Obama’s, “Let’s Move” campaign.  Her goal is simple: to raise a generation of healthier kids.
A large piece of that effort is helping kids make healthy eating choices. In speaking to the Grocery Manufacturers Association Conference, she called upon the industry to join the fight against childhood obesity by promoting healthy eating habits by rethinking the kinds of products they offer. This is the fundamental principle behind The Little School’s food program. It is often said that as a culture we have gotten very far away from truly knowing where our food comes from, and the effects it has on our bodies.  A wonderful adage states, “If your grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, it’s NOT.”  Teaching the children to grow their own food and to be exposed to a wide variety of delicious healthy options will help them make better choices for themselves.

So sure, even if pizza day still reigns King, and even if congress says it’s so, our kids know pizza is NOT a vegetable! We would love it if you could join your kids for lunch one day and experience one of the coolest things about our school. I personally recommend the chicken and dumplings.